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Last Updated: 02/23/2005The Letter of the Law: Refugee Rights
Yotam ben Meir
At the Hal Far refugee camp in Malta, refugees from Africa and other parts of the world are treated according to the letter of the law on refugees. But without social integration into Maltese society, they have no hope of ever living normal lives.
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As an interim response, the promotion of self-reliance of refugees is an important means to avoid dependency, take advantage of the initiative and potential contributions of refugees, and prepare them for durable solutions
Agenda for Protection, UNHCR, October 2003
The overwhelming flow of refugees fleeing persecution, civil wars and grave human rights violations in their countries of origin is a worldwide phenomenon, viewed by many governments as a threat. International refugee law, based on the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugee and its 1967 Protocol, recognizes the importance of granting international protection to asylum seekers for the maintenance of international peace and security, as manifested in the United Nations Charter.
In recent years the focus of Refugee s International law practice has been on the de-criminalization of refugees many times detained as illegal migrants in breach of the international refugee law. But as the flow of refugees and the number of those recognized with refugee status increases, the focus has been shifted to the quality of the international protection once it is granted as well.
Addressing Article 34 of the 1951 Convention, it has been acknowledged that the integration, assimilation and future naturalization of refugees in the host society (or in other words, the quality of the protection granted to refugees) is as important to the maintenance of international peace and security as the granting of the protection.
Following a more holistic perspective, this approach aims at dealing with the prevention of the possible consequences of ill-treatment of refugees as much as forms of persecution (ill-treatments such as increasing racism, trafficking in persons, slavery and sexual slavery, and extreme poverty and depravation, all recognized as threats to international peace, and as possible grounds for future conflicts).
International protection, therefore, is not only about receiving refugees and acknowledging their status, but also about integrating them into the host country and society and finding durable solutions without which the protection granted might become meaningless.
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